Washington: While young animals have the ability to repair their tissues effortlessly, a new study has suggested that this capacity can be recaptured in adults too.
The research from scientists at the Stem Cell Program at Boston Children`s Hospital were able to re-grow hair and repair cartilage, bone, skin and other soft tissues in a mouse model by reactivating a dormant gene called Lin28a, which is active in embryonic stem cells.
The study also found that Lin28a promotes tissue repair in part by enhancing metabolism in mitochondria-the energy-producing engines in cells-suggesting that a mundane cellular "housekeeping" function could open new avenues for developing regenerative treatments.
"Efforts to improve wound healing and tissue repair have mostly failed, but altering metabolism provides a new strategy which we hope will prove successful," the study`s senior investigator George Q. Daley said.
Lin28, first discovered in worms, functions in all complex organisms. It is abundant in embryonic stem cells, expressed strongly during early embryo formation and has been used to reprogram skin cells into stem cells. It acts by binding to RNA and regulating how genes are translated into proteins.
The researchers found that Lin28a also enhances the production of metabolic enzymes in mitochondria, the structures that produce energy for the cell. By revving up a cell`s bioenergetics, they found, Lin28a helps generate the energy needed to stimulate and grow new tissues.
Further experiments showed that bypassing Lin28a and directly activating mitochondrial metabolism with a small-molecule compound also had the effect of enhancing wound healing. This suggests the possibility of inducing regeneration and promoting tissue repair with drugs.
The study is published in journal Cell.